Youth Brass 2000 claimed the Blue Riband Championship Section title at the National Youth Championships, on a day of unforgettable music making at the University of Salford.
Under the baton of MD, Chris Jeans, their outstanding performances of the set work, ‘Five States of Change’ and own choice selections of ‘Virtuosity’ featuring Best Instrumentalist winner Thomas Fountain and the choreographed, 'Valero' gave them their third victory in four contests this year.
On what proved to be a fine day in Salford for the Lions Youth organisation, Nigel Birch led the Cheshire outfit into second place, with the top two ensembles producing Gold Award winning programmes.
Greater Gwent led by Chris Turner came in third taking a Silver Award with Oldham Council Music Centre Youth under Jonathan Leedale finishing fourth with a Bronze award.
With joyful youngsters celebrating on the bus on the way home, Chris Jeans reflected on a victory, which he admitted, left him speechless on a day that started off in the worst possible way.
"I can laugh now, but our coach broke down before we'd even set off on our trip North this morning. That wasn’t the best start to the day”, he told 4BR.
"Thankfully, a replacement coach was found quickly and we made it to Salford in time to play as scheduled, but I’m so proud of everyone for what they have given me and achieved this year, and I must pay special mention to Thomas Fountain for picking up the Best Instrumentalist award".
As the band itself headed home, some of the players raced from Salford by taxi to Manchester Piccadilly train station, where they boarded a train to Taunton to link up with the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain for its Easter course.
Adjudicators Alan Morrison and Richard Marshall were also literally ‘blown away’ by the overall standard produced by the top bands, and whilst they were in no doubts about the winner, Alan commenced his excellent address, by reinforcing the point just how important the National Youth Championships were by stating: “I firmly believe that this is the most important contest of the calendar year.”
He went on to urge the young players to keep involved in banding : "It's important as it’s the grass roots of banding and produces the stars of tomorrow, but more importantly than that, we have the here the bands of tomorrow."
Alan also praised the selection of Philip Sparke's set test which 'tested the basics of playing', whilst Richard endorsed Alan's remarks, adding how fantastic it was to see players of seven or eight year of age performing with massive smiles on their faces.
The victory for Youth Brass 2000 meant Lions Youth missed out on the title, but MD Nigel Birch took to social media to declare that they had enjoyed a 'fantastic day' — not hiding his delight that his band had also claimed deserved Gold Award.
They produced a high class programme of music influenced by Andy Scott with 'Roar!' and 'Hymn to Barossa', in addition to the set test.
There was also a great deal to admire in Greater Gwent Youth Band’s performances that included a fine set work and cracking renditions of Jacob Vilhelm Larsen's 'Ad Astra' and Matthew Hall's 'Nightingale Dances'.
In a contest that unfortunately only contained four contenders, the emerging talent of the excellent Oldham Council Music Centre Youth received a Bronze Award.
It was a day Youth Brass 2000 will not forget in a hurry as their long-standing chairman of 23 years, Don Collins was the recipient of the Brian Hicks Memorial Trophy for his services to youth banding.
To cries of, ‘We love you Don’, from the Youth Brass players in the Maxwell Hall, the shell-shocked chairman told the audience: "I'm very honoured to receive the award and they are great bunch of kids. Behind me I have a terrific committee, but I am very touched by this.”
A field of 10 bands competed in the Intermediate Section in a contest that gave judges Steve Pritchard-Jones and Mareika Gray plenty to ponder, thanks to their high quality playing.
The competitive cream found its way to the top with winners, Pembrokeshire Schools, defending champion, Wardle Academy, Tewitt Youth and Macclesfield Youth all gaining deserved Gold Awards.
The knowledgeable judges gave excellent summaries to an appreciative audience, with Mareika emphasising the point be saying she was, ‘really impressed’ with the overall standard.
The Milnrow conductor later admitted to 4BR that it was close battle between the top two bands, with the Welsh outfit delivering a programme that had a polished sheen throughout coupled with excellent dynamic contrasts.
Mareika also took the opportunity to remind the conductors on the importance of the right choice of pieces — those that were within their capabilities to enhance the contesting experience.
Steve added that Philip Harper's set work, 'A Colwell Suite' proved to be a good choice on the day, praising all the players for their efforts admitting that some of the bands would knock spots off Second and Third section outfits.
Great Western Youths' Keiran Bird claimed the ‘Best Instrumentalist’ Award for his stunning rendition of the 'Rondo from Concerto for Double Bass,', whilst the overall quality of the competitors was shown with no less than three ensembles gaining Silver Awards.
For Pembrokeshire Schools MD, Matthew Jenkins, it proved a wonderful way to end a long day that saw the band arrive home not long after midnight on Monday.
He told 4BR that the band that became the latest from the Principality to claim a National title, only meets once a month, and having only been formed in 2010 and having competed in other National musical events, had targeted this event.
“I'm thrilled to bits with how the performance went,” he said. “We had a lengthy journey to Salford, and with Poynton withdrawing, we went on stage slightly earlier than anticipated and enjoyed the whole experience.”
Matthew also revealed that of the 44 players on stage, no less than 20 play for the Second Section, National Champion, Goodwick Brass, which he led to victory in Cheltenham last September.
Pembrokeshire's winning programme saw them deliver Ryan Howells', 'Champions', 'All Through the Night' and 'All Night Long' in addition to the set work.
Explaining the background to their choice of music, the MD said they wanted to perform repertoire that the players enjoyed playing and had a s strong Welsh element contained in it.
Defending champion Wardle Academy couldn't have done anything more to retain their title under Lee Rigg.
Their excellent set featured the test piece, Alan Fernie's, 'Prismatic Light', 'Cortege' from 'Mlada' and a reprise from their recent Butlins and Action Research Youth Entertainment programmes, 'Fill the World with Music' and 'Hey Jude'.
Meanwhile, the compact sounding Tewitt Youth under the baton of Dave Smith gained a deserved gold podium finish thanks to a set that included the march, 'Castell Coch' and Ray Farr's arrangement of 'Riverdance'.
Whilst missing out on a top three berth, there was great delight for Macclesfield Youth under Louise Renshaw whose performance of Jacob De Haen's 'Ross Roy' and the set work, not only gave them a Gold Award, but also gained them their best ever result at the contest.
Cardiff County & Glamorgan Youth, Great Western Youth and Milton Keynes Youth took Silver Awards, whilst Enderby Youth, Hade Edge Youth Academy & Stockport Schools picked Bronze Awards.
The neighbouring Peel Hall was packed to capacity as the Black Dyke duo of Brett Baker and Katrina Marzella broke off from their band’s preparations for the European Championships to enjoy a fabulous afternoon listening to ten ensembles.
Both Brett and Katrina were full of praise for everybody involved with Katrina encouraging the bands to play hymn tunes to help with their development.
With well chosen programmes from all the competitors, the judges revealed that there were three outstanding performances, each fully deserving their Gold Awards.
Winners Fred Longworth High School under MD Helen Robinson, retained the title with a set that included 'Castell Coch', 'Cry Me a River', featuring ‘Best Instrumentalist’ winner, cornet player, Joe Wellman, and 'Jubilation'.
A very proud MD took time out from her Easter holiday to tell 4BR what it meant, not just to her, but to the pupils at the school who have been rehearsing during the break:
"I'm absolutely thrilled," she said. "To win the title and Best Instrumentalist award last year was brilliant, but to win both again this time is outstanding.
The students have worked so hard over the past few months to achieve their potential and that includes extra rehearsals on a Saturday and last week whilst off school. I thank them all for their efforts and that includes the parents as well for all the support they give."
The rising stars of Gwynedd & Mon Junior claimed the runner-up prize under the direction of John Glyn Jones for the second year in a row, with Denbighshire Area Junior in third.
Chalford Youth, Stockport Schools and Elland Silver Training took Silver Awards, with the West Yorkshire outfit conducted by Samantha Harrison also claiming the ‘Band Showing Most Potential’.
There were fine performances from the emerging talents of Lions Youth Junior and Macclesfield Youth Junior to take Bronze Awards, with Blackpool Youth & Hade Edge Academy of Music Junior picking up Merit accolades.
Sunday morning's Beginners Section saw parents, family friends and even judges Richard Evans and Michael Dodd reaching for the tissues after seven great ensembles served up a brilliant contest.
Richard Evans certainly made the players feel ten feet tall after an address that oozed with passion and pride, whilst still reminding conductors to place, ‘an emphasis on ensemble skills to develop such as staggering breathing and playing full note lengths.’
With the ethos of the event geared towards enjoyment rather than all out competitiveness, there was a wonderful air of appreciation for all the player’s efforts.
One of the numerous highlights was provided by winners, Ysgol Bontnewydd Primary and their amazing 10 year old cornet player, Ela Hâf Williams, who delivered a wonderfully lyrical rendition of 'Guardian Angel'.
Fellow judge Michael Dood told the packed hall before the results that the players were 'truly inspirational' and that there was a ‘very bright future for banding’ if this talent could be nurtured further.
The band’s triumph was all the more remarkable after the MD revealed that a large number of the 23 players from the tiny village school on the outskirts of Caernarfon had never played in front on audience before Sunday.
"What can I say?," Dylan told 4BR. "They were simply wonderful. Having competed last year we were determined to come back, even though some of those players who started playing last September were making their debuts.”
Dylan's enthusiasm is reflected by the desire of his players, who also gain valuable support from the William Matthias Music Service, but who all play on their own instruments.
The winning programme included 'Gonna Fly Now', music from 'ABBA' and 'Robbie Williams’, whilst there was a special smile and congratulations for their remarkable soloists, Malan Hughes on tenor horn and Ela Hâf , who just happens to be the MDs daughter!
As for the future for the young North Walians, apart from a celebratory party to acknowledge their triumph, the band will being working hard for the one of the biggest music festivals in the world, the Youth Eisteddfod which will be screened live on S4C in May.
The award to the ‘Band with the Most Potential’ went to Lions Youth Beginners directed by Christopher Thompson, with a ‘Highly Commended’ Award for the second year in a row going to Elland Silver conducted by David Armitage.
However, awards for sheer brilliance went to all the bands (Denbighshire Area Training, Hade Edge Academy of Music Training, Macclesfield Youth Training and Stockport Schools Junior) who took part.
On a day that witnessed over 1,000 players compete on two stages across the four sections, many people 4BR spoke to called it, 'inspirational’, ‘sensational’ and ‘truly remarkable'. It was also an event that Brass Bands England can look back on with immense pride and satisfaction.
The busy day ran like clockwork thanks to the organisational excellence of the teams led by Arnold Tattersfield and Gary Walczak, which were admirably complimented by the excellent comperes Sally Coleman and David Hayward.
Both Gary and Arnold also expressed their personal thanks to all the competitors and their supporters for their co-operation and for embracing the competitions with so much enthusiasm and passion.
Meanwhile, Brass Bands England Chairman, Mike Kilroy later told 4BR of his pride at what he had witnessed, with the players being 'the stars of the show'.
Mike even admitted he had tears in his eyes at what he was seeing, and now wants to make the National Youth Championships an event to rival any musical youth competition in the world.
Whilst building work is still being undertaken at the RNCM in Manchester, 4BR understands that the plan is to return the event to the Oxford Road venue next year with Sunday 19th April (two Sundays after Easter) the date to pencil in the diaries.
Malcolm Wood & Matt Shaw
I firmly believe that this is the most important contest of the calendar yearAlan Morrison
Five States of Change (Philip Sparke) & Own Choice Programme.
20 minutes playing time.
Adjudicators: Alan Morrison and Richard Marshall
1. Youth Brass 2000 (Chris Jeans) — Gold
2. Lions Youth (Nigel Birch) — Gold
3. Greater Gwent Youth (Chris Turner) — Silver
4. Oldham Council Music Centre Youth (Jonathan Leedale) — Bronze
Best Instrumentalist: Thomas Fountain (cornet/trumpet) — Youth Brass 2000
Brian Hicks Memorial Trophy: Don Collins (Youth Brass 2000)
A Colwell Suite (Philip Harper) & Own Choice Programme
20 minutes playing time.
Adjudicators: Steve Pritchard-Jones & Mareika Gray
1. Pembrokeshire Schools (Matthew Jenkins) — Gold
2. Wardle Academy (Lee Rigg) — Gold
3. Tewitt Youth (Dave Smith) — Gold
Best Instrumentalist: Keiran Bird (bass) — Great Western Youth
Macclesfield Youth (Louise Renshaw)
Cardiff County & Glamorgan Youth (Charles Maynard)
Great Western Youth (John Winterflood)
Milton Keynes Youth (David Rose)
Enderby Youth (Trevor Hounsome)
Hade Edge Academy of Youth (Simon Wood)
Stockport Schools Senior (Tim Dines)
Withdrawn: Poynton Youth (Mike Eccles)
Own Choice Programme to include one piece composed for brass band and two verses of a hymn tune.
15 minutes playing time.
Adjudicators: Brett Baker and Katrina Marzella
1. Fred Longworth (Helen Robinson) — Gold
2. Gwynedd & Mon Junior (John Gwynn Jones) — Gold
3. Denbighshire Area Junior (John Powell) — Gold
Band Showing Most Potential: Elland Silver Training (Samantha Harrison)
Best Instrumentalist: Joe Wellman (cornet) — Fred Longworth High School
Chalford Youth (Steve Tubb)
Elland Silver Training (Samantha Harrison)
Stockport Schools Intermediate (Owen Garbutt)
Lions Junior Brass (Tom Hancock)
Macclesfield Youth Junior (Tim Grindey)
Blackpool Youth (Brett Warren)
Hade Edge Academy of Music Junior (Michael Crowther)
Own Choice programme of 15 minutes playing time.
Adjudicators: Richard Evans & Michael Dodd
Band of the Day: Ysgol Bontnewydd Primary (Dylan Williams)
Band with Most Potential: Lions Youth Beginners (Christopher Thompson)
Highly Commended: Elland Silver Starter (David Armitage)
Denbighshire Area Training (Helen Powell)
Hade Edge Acadamy of Music Training (Carolanne Duncan)
Macclesfield Youth Training (Liz Hudson)
Stockport Schools Junior (Steven Cavanagh/Marianne Garbutt)